MADISON — When Platteville drove the length of the field in six plays and took an early 7–0 lead on senior Logan Butson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to classmate Derek Schambow just two minutes into Thursday night’s WIAA Division 4 championship game, it appeared the Hillmen were destined to claim the glass slipper of championship gold.
But Winneconne, a fellow Cinderella state finalist, had other plans.
Senior Peter Buyeske returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to the Platteville 5 setting up a 3-yard Mitchell Markert TD run, beginning a stretch of four straight Winneconne touchdowns as the Wolves pulled away for a 28–14 victory.
Fellow senior Riley Kallas scored the Wolves’ (9–5) final three touchdowns and totaled 211 all-purpose yards as Winneconne claimed its first state championship.
“It was obvious coming in the we had to slow Kallas down, but that is easier said than done,” said Platteville head coach Scott Statz. “We felt the biggest factor in the game, however, was that for the most part they controlled both lines of scrimmage. They were the most physical team we played this year.”
Platteville (9–5) took the opening kickoff and drove 72 yards in six plays as Butson completed his first four passes for 77 yards and a nice over the shoulder fade pass to Schambow in the left corner of the end zone for the early 7–0 lead.
Winneconne countered with Buyeske’s long kick return and Markert short touchdown run to tie the game just 51 seconds later.
Kallas intercepted Butson on Platteville’s next drive, but the Hillmen defense held.
Following a Platteville three-and-out, a Buyeske punt return set Winneconne up at the Platteville 32.
Five plays later Mitchel Fenrich connected with Kallas for a 32-yard gain on 3rd-and-18 down to the 1. Kallas plowed in from there on the next play to make it 14–7 late in the first quarter.
With 5:00 left in the second quarter Kallas struck again. The senior back reeled off a 58-yard touchdown to extend the Wolves’ lead to 21–7.
Kallas delivered the final dagger early in the third quarter when he caught his second touchdown pass of the game — this one from 39 yards out — on the opening drive of the second half.
Platteville junior Jacob Bernhardt scored on a 15-yard run with 7:56 remaining to pull the Hillmen within two scores, but Winneconne sustained a 16-play drive that burned 7:03 and the Hillmen had only 50 seconds remaining once they got the ball back.
Platteville’s final score was set up by a sensational one-handed 22-yard catch by junior fullback Ryan Weber.
The Platteville offense was noticeably limited without the use of senior halfback William Cooley (sprained foot), who rushed for 1,770 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games, and junior wide receiver Chance Kupersmith (concussion).
Cooley injured his foot in Platteville’s 22–15 D4 semifinal victory over previously unbeaten Manitowoc Roncalli and couldn’t push off or make sharp cuts required to carry the ball. He did however start at linebacker and make seven tackles on defense in the title game.
Kupersmith sustained a concussion in the semifinal and was held out of Thursday’s title game.
“William gutting it out on defense was inspiring,” said Statz. “Not having him on offense was a factor, but Bernhardt is a good back too. We do not make excuses in our program.”
Bernhardt finished the game with a team-high 43 yards rushing on 18 carries. Sophomore tight end Mitch Knockel caught a team-high five catches for 68 yards. Weber made four grabs for 54 yards, and Schambow hauled in three passes for 49 yards in his final game for Platteville.
Butson completed 13 of 28 passes for 174 yards for one touchdown and three interceptions.
Senior defensive lineman John Skubal, one of Platteville’s leading tacklers all season, led the defensive effort with a team-high 11 tackles, including three for loss. Weber and Schambow each had nine tackles.
“This group of seniors just wrote their last chapter and will be remembered forever for their togetherness, focus, pride, and an ability to persevere,” added Statz. “This run to the state finals has been incredible. The support by the school, community, and the parents has been overwhelming. There are memories that have been created by this team that will never be forgotten. These kids should be very, very proud of everything that they accomplished, especially when many counted us out.
“We beat two undefeated teams that were combined 25-0 just to get to state. This season should show all of the kids in Platteville coming up that anything is possible as long as you are willing to work for it.”
WIAA Division 4 State Championship
Winneconne 28, Platteville 14
(from Thursday, Nov. 21 @ Camp Randall Stadium, Madison)
Platteville 7 0 0 7 — 14
Winneconne 14 7 7 0 — 28
P: Derek Schambow 11 pass from Logan Butson (James Bailie kick)
W: Mitchell Markert 3 run (C. Boehnlein kick)
W: Riley Kallas 1 run (Boehnlein kick)
W: Kallas 58 run (Boehnlein kick)
W: Kallas 39 pass from Michael Fenrich (Boehnlein kick)
P: Jacob Bernhardt 15 run (Bailie kick)
First downs — W 15, P 13. Rushing — W 46-197, P 24-42. Passing Yards — W 132, P 174. Passing — W 8-12-0, P 13-28-3. Fumbles–lost — W 0-0, P 3-0. Penalties-yards — W 5-52, W 5-31.
Rushing — W: Mitchell Markert 31-120, Riley Kallas 7-64, Mitchel Fenrich 5-21, Peter Buyeske 3-11; P: Jacob Bernhardt 18-43, Jason Withrow 1-9, Ryan Weber 1-1, Derek Schambow 1-2, Logan Butson 2-0. Passing — W: Michael Fenrich 8-12-0, 132; P: Logan Butson 13-28-3, 174. Receiving — W: Kallas 6-120, Buyeske 2-13; P: Mitch Knockel 5-68, Ryan Weber 4-54, Schambow 3-49, Mitch Niehaus 1-3. Tackles — W: Alex Ford 11, Justin Davis 5; P: John Skubal 11, Weber 9, Schambow 9, William Cooley 7, Jacob Shepherd 7, Blake Wagner 7, Jason Withrow 6, James Bailie 3, Jarred Heer 3, Zach Hoppenjan 1.